• Linda Gillam
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Plumas Arts presents Shasta Taiko

Feather Publishing

Plumas Arts invites county residents to experience an exciting world culture presentation as part of a local celebration of Earth Day. Shasta Taiko will provide school programs in all Plumas Unified School District elementary schools April 20 – 22. The group will also offer two public performances: the first one Wednesday, April 20, at the Town Hall Theatre at 7 p.m. and the second Friday, April 22, at 7:15 p.m. at The Feather Community Art Center in Portola.

Admission to these performances will be a $5 donation per person at the door, but greater amounts would be appreciated from those who are able to pay. In addition, no one will be denied access to the performance for an inability to pay. Patrons are encouraged to arrive at least 15 minutes early to these performances as capacity crowds are anticipated.

Shasta Taiko emerges from the centuries-old traditions of Japanese taiko and fuses it with new world influences and bridges it across cultures and continents.

The group’s repertoire consists of original compositions by Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, some based on traditional Japanese taiko rhythms, some with world music and jazz influences, and some inspired from nature.

Besides an “orchestra” of drums of various sizes and tones, the compositions often utilize a variety of percussion as well as wind instruments — Japanese bamboo flutes, Mexican clay flutes, saxophone, conch shells and Australian didgeridoo — combined with dramatic choreography to present a colorful auditory and visual experience.

Shasta Taiko was founded in 1985 by Russel Hisashi Baba and Jeanne Aiko Mercer, both recognized artists in traditional and contemporary taiko, new music and jazz. Shasta Taiko’s mission is to introduce, teach, develop, promote and preserve the art of taiko and related music and arts, thereby culturally enriching the community and artistically evolving the art.

“We believe that one of mankind’s higher levels of development is through music, art and culture; and that cultural exchange and sharing will help to cut through ignorance, misunderstanding and fear, helping to attain a higher consciousness for all.

“The practice of art and music as a discipline liberates oneself by developing new skills, discovering different points of view, growing in self-expression, gaining confidence and creating something to share with others while hopefully developing awareness, insight, understanding and compassion.”

—Russel Baba and Jeanne Mercer, founders of Shasta Taiko and ShastaYama

Baba and Mercer began their taiko training with Grand Master Seiichi Tanaka in 1972 and they were two of the first members of San Francisco Taiko Dojo. Their contribution to the development of taiko in American is significant. The two were recognized as influential American taiko pioneers at the Big Drum: Taiko in the United States exhibit at the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles and at the North American Taiko Conference sponsored by the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. They continue to offer master classes in taiko and performances nationally and internationally.

They led the first National Summer Taiko Institute for young American taiko leaders and have performed and provided numerous workshops for North American Taiko Conferences, National Collegiate Taiko Invitationals and Northwest Regional Taiko Gatherings.

Baba and Mercer and former Shasta Taiko members Masato Baba and Shoji Kameda are also featured along with others in several national video documentaries and studies on American taiko — most notably, “Spirit of Taiko” and “Big Drum.” A video documentary, “Shasta Taiko,” also won the 16th annual National Cable ACE award in cultural affairs. “Spirit Drum — Taiko Stories From America,” is a CD recording of their original work and features former Shasta Taiko members Masato Baba and Shoji Kameda.


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